An introduction to identifying the skillsets that are missing from your business

There’s an important gap between the skills you have now and those you need for the future. Identifying those skillsets reduces risk and empowers growth.

Ensuring your managers and staff have the right skills to enable the company to prosper is always a challenge. But ensuring that your company has the talent it needs to face the future is an even bigger task.

According to the OECD, 32 per cent of jobs will change radically because of automation in the next 15 to 20 years. Yet a third of businesses do not offer any work-based training. And it’s not just technological trends, growing businesses are fuelled by talent.

It’s important to review what skillsets your business needs to meet both the demands of the current stage you’re at and to look to the future and think about what skillsets can unlock growth opportunities.

In the face of growing levels of automation, robotics and artificial intelligence, as well as the need for soft skills in an increasingly services-led economy, how can a company ensure that its workforce will have the skills it needs?

Use this guide to learn more about identifying missing skillsets, then follow our dedicated action plan to make changes in your own business.

What factors can help you identify missing skillsets?

Changes in consumer behaviour

Changes in consumer behaviour, such as the growth of online shopping, impact the type of skills required. Identifying these trends early gives you time to upskill your existing team and recruit where necessary.

Team members that are industry enthusiasts and company data are great for identifying trends. There might be a number of customer service requests or an increase in interest in a previously niche product that hints at where demand is heading.

Outsourcing and contractor needs

Talking to managers about why they’re outsourcing and what skillsets that gives them access to can identify where roles might be able to be brought in-house in the future.

Your company goals

Looking at skills gaps should be a key part of goal setting, particularly when it comes to annual reviews and budget setting. Part of that process is making sure you have the capacity to deliver your plan, but it’s also a great opportunity to think about what skillsets could supercharge your growth.

Perhaps, it’s time to bring on a project manager who can remove bottlenecks and make sure you’re getting the most out of your resources. Bringing in a specialist in a technology that’s part of a new product launch may be more powerful than upskilling existing team members.

International trends

If you export or import goods or rely on international talent, international trends can impact the talent you’re likely to need in the future and where it comes from.

Lower levels of migration between countries could lead to skills shortages in some sectors. At the same time, technology has made it easier than ever to operate remote teams that can be based anywhere in the world.

Talking to international suppliers or distributors gives you an opportunity to learn about new processes, tools and technologies that point to skillsets you’re going to need in the future.

Alan White, The Translation People

Alan White keeps a close eye on international business news to determine future skillsets needed

“As a translation provider, what’s going on in the international business world has a huge impact on determining the future skillsets we’re likely to need. Last year was a prime example. We’ve had Brexit, which has seen a shift in where UK businesses are focusing their international operations, and coronavirus, which has accelerated the use of technology to help international communications.”

Alan White, business development director of The Translation People

The cold hard facts

A report by the OECD says advances in artificial intelligence and robotics and the diffusion of digital technologies are making it difficult to anticipate the skillsets companies need.

Common mistakes when trying to identify missing skillsets

Businesses are too reactive

Many businesses are reactive rather than proactive. Rather than planning ahead and looking at the skills they will need in the future, they only think seriously about taking action when there is a trigger that forces change, such as a key staff member leaving.

Rather than recruiting for potential, businesses recruit people based on previous experience or people in their own image. This means they miss out on the opportunity to recruit candidates with the capability and inclination to meet the needs of the business as it evolves.

Businesses lack a vision of the future

Many businesses fail to have a vision or a plan for where they want to be in three or five years’ time. Lacking that vision, they are ill-equipped to understand, never mind acquire or develop internally, the skills they will need.

Companies fail to look internally

Businesses don’t spend sufficient time reflecting on their internal capacity and capabilities and how they match their future skill set requirements.

Technology isn't up to date

Businesses fail to leverage the most up-to-date technology properly, so training and development programmes aren’t designed to develop a workforce with the skills needed for the future.

Tony Hague, PP Control & Automation

Tony Hague is preparing to adapt his recruitment processes to meet the demand for digital skills

“As soon as we find the answer, I can see our recruitment and training programmes being adapted to take into account and make the most of the digital thread.”

Tony Hague, chief executive officer of PP Control & Automation

The cold hard facts

The Confederation of British Industry’s report Learning for Life shows that nine in ten employees will need to retrain at an additional cost to businesses and the government of £13bn a year.

Quick wins for identifying the missing skillsets in your business

Use your customers to identify emerging trends

Look at what patterns you can see in your own sales and enquiries, and speak to your customers to determine how their priorities are changing. By doing this you can identify emerging trends in your markets, which will allow you to identify the skills your workforce will need and plan accordingly.

Identify and measure your future skills gap

When trying to identify skills gaps, look at future needs, rather than extrapolating from the past. Use this to identify any shortfall in capabilities. Such skills gap analysis allows you to compare the critical competencies to carry out roles successfully today, with those that will be needed to perform to that level in the future.

Look at ways to get external support assessing what talent you’ll need in the future, such as using a specialist recruitment agency.

Consider what excellence in your current job roles looks like. Then compare this with what excellence will look like in five years’ time. When recruiting, build this into today’s job specifications, not tomorrow’s.

Figure out what new roles could plug skills gaps in your business

Work through our five-step action plan

Keep up to date with developments in your industry and sector

To understand where your industry is headed and the skills that will be needed in the future, spend time keeping up to date with industry trends and developments. Read industry reports and take note of relevant surveys, such as vacancy surveys.

Become familiar with official government statistics, including local labour market figures. Read reports from official bodies, such as The Government Migration Advisory Committee to understand what’s happening to international talent. Leverage your professional networks including trade bodies and other business organisations.

Don’t ignore your existing talent

Given that skills shortages are likely to continue to be a feature of business life, it is important that companies don’t ignore their existing talent pool. A comprehensive career development programme can help match the skills the business needs with staff that have the ambition and aptitude to develop within their role.

Focus on individual employees

Matching the individual with a company’s future requirement involves dialogue with individual staff members and a proper process. That can be empowering because employees better understand the impact they can, increasing retention and boosting productivity.

“We will sit an employee down and tell them that, say, in one year we see them being a manager. So, we outline all the little steps they will need to take to get there.”

Keir Wright-Whyte, director of Accounts and Legal

The cold hard facts

A report by the UK’s Industrial Strategy Council predicts that by 2030, seven million additional workers could be under-skilled for their job requirements, with five million acutely under-skilled in basic digital skills.

Now you’ve learnt about the underlying factors that affect how you identify missing skillsets, use our action plan to direct your improvement efforts.